U.S. contributions to U.N. peacekeeping activities help stabilize countries in conflict by protecting civilians from violence; facilitating humanitarian aid; disarming, demobilizing, and reintegrating former combatants; training local police forces; and supporting free and fair elections. The U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is a veto-wielding permanent member, authorizes peacekeeping operations.
What does it buy?
The Contributions for International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) account funds the U.S. share of assessed expenses for 11 current U.N. peacekeeping operations spanning three continents. The U.S.’s current assessment rate is 27.89% of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, though the U.S. currently only pays 25%.
An investment of $2.7 billion would allow the U.S. to pay its F.Y. 2022 peacekeeping assessments in-full as well as cap-related arrears accrued from F.Y. 2017 to F.Y. 2021.
Why is it important?
Peacekeeping missions save American taxpayers money. A February 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that a U.N. operation costs American taxpayers one-eighth the cost of deploying a comparable U.S. force.
The U.N. has no standing army and depends on member states to voluntarily contribute troops and police to fulfill its peacekeeping operations.
The U.S. plays a central role in deploying peacekeeping forces. However, the U.S. provides just over two and a half dozen personnel, compared to a total force of more than 80,000, including from allies like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Jordan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Peacekeeping supports civilian protection. One study of monthly civilian death tolls from civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa over 15 years found that in places where no peacekeeping troops were deployed, average monthly civilian deaths totaled 106. However, when at least 8,000 U.N. troops were present, the average dropped by 98%.
U.N. peacekeeping operations are funded through assessed contributions required of all U.N. member states. Assessment rates are renegotiated by the U.N. General Assembly every three years.
The U.S. joined all member states in approving the current rate structure in 2018. Nevertheless, every year since F.Y. 2017, Congress, with the support of the White House, has enforced an arbitrary 25% cap on U.S. contributions, causing the U.S. to accrue more than $1 billion in arrears. Because of these shortfalls, the U.N. is facing growing liquidity challenges.
Countries that participate in missions are not fully reimbursed for contributions of personnel and equipment. Most of these countries are lower-income and cannot afford to help sustain complex long-term peacekeeping deployments without reimbursement.
A U.N. operation is one-eighth the cost to American taxpayers of deploying a comparable U.S. force.
Why should Americans care?
Countries in conflict are fertile ground for extremist groups’ growth and organized crime, threatening U.S. national security and economic interests.
By undertaking a range of stabilization and protection measures, U.N. peacekeepers help avert the collapse of fragile states; prevent civil wars from metastasizing into full-blown regional conflicts; reduce forced displacement and refugee outflows; and decrease the likelihood that dormant conflicts will arise.
COVID-19 has delayed troop rotations as U.N. officials and offices develop mitigation measures to promote the safety, security, and health of U.N. personnel currently in the field.
U.N. peacekeeping missions have reoriented their community outreach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and dispel misinformation.
What more could be done?
As the U.S. steps back from its commitments, China has sought to fill the void, using its growing influence to undermine core human rights and civilian protection-related aspects of U.N. peacekeeping mandates—continuing to accrue arrears will only accelerate this trend.
Failing to meet our financial obligations undermines our ability to push for critical reforms at the U.N.
When the U.S. paid its assessed share of the U.N. peacekeeping budget, the U.S. and U.N. worked together to achieve several critical reforms and efficiencies, initiating efforts that reduced the cost per peacekeeper by 18% and cut the number of support staff to save on administrative costs.
Funding levels may not accurately reflect those in the appropriations bills and/or reports due to rounding.